A breakout player in Baker Dunleavy's first season, Cameron Young leads Quinnipiac into MAAC Tournament and opening-round contest against Siena. (Photo by Quinnipiac University Athletics)
Baker Dunleavy's first season at the helm of Quinnipiac went somewhat how one would expect, filled with peaks and valleys and a Bobcat team that, while picked to finish last in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, overachieved to a degree, winning seven conference games and earning the No. 7 seed in the MAAC Tournament, which begins Thursday in Albany.
"Every game we played was kind of a knock-down, drag-out fight," Dunleavy assessed of Quinnipiac, no stranger to cardiac finishes and one-possession affairs throughout the year. "I was really proud of our guys to be able to kind of accept the challenge and attack the challenge. Seven wins is one thing, but I think the way we competed was really my biggest concern, and I think we've gotten a lot better."
Although the Bobcats (10-20) enter the Times Union Center having lost seven of their final eight regular season contests, the mindset inside the locker room is one of positive reflection as Quinnipiac readies to face Siena in what is; for all intents and purposes, a road game on the Saints' home court even if the Siena brand is hidden from plain sight.
"I don't think there's anybody on our team that feels like we're not playing well," said Dunleavy. "The key is we know we're playing good basketball, and we know we've gotten better. We're confident, and I guess you probably wouldn't typically say that about a team who has been on a tough run, but if you look at the individual circumstances of each loss, it's not like we're getting blown out."
"We've just had some bad luck, had some poor decisions down the stretch, whatever it may be. But we feel like we're due, and we're hoping we can just kind of get over that hump."
The Bobcats survived a 71-70 thriller in their lone trip to Albany this season, defeating Siena on New Year's Day. While both sides are far different than their early-conference-season clash may indicate, Dunleavy acknowledged the difficulty in playing a tournament opener in a hostile environment.
"It's a challenge anytime you play on the road," he said. "It's a true road game, but that's something we're used to dealing with. Honestly, I think we're kind of excited about getting another opportunity. I think we want to prove to ourselves that we can get something done in a hostile environment, and that's what it's going to be. As opposed to complaining about it, I think we kind of want to embrace it and really attack the challenge."